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A daunting task, recreating the idiosyncratic music of the legendary Thelonious Sphere Monk without lessening its power or singularity, and who better to accept the challenge than Monk’s drumming son, T.S. Monk (with a lot of help from his friends). Herein are nine of Monk’s matchless compositions, ably refashioned by T.S. and colleagues with an abundance of spirit and a scrupulous aversion to needless parody. In June, Monk on Monk was honored by journalists as “Recording of the Year” at the first Jazz Awards Ceremony in New York’s Alice Tully Hall. The younger Monk mustered for the occasion a coterie of accomplished musicians and gave many of them a chance to solo on one or more numbers. Among those making strong impressions are Perez and Washington (“Little Rootie Tootie”), Hargrove (“Rootie Tootie,” “Dear Ruby”), Shorter (soprano on “Crepuscule with Nellie”), Sickler (“Boo Boo’s Birthday”), Hancock and Carter (“Two Timer”), Heath, Sandoval and McBride (“Bright Mississippi”), baritone Johnson (“Suddenly”), Allen (“Ugly Beauty”), Roney, Watson and Holland (“Jackie–ing”). Singer Kevin Magony’s smooth baritone meshes wonderfully with the lovely “Dear Ruby” (also known as “Ruby My Dear”) while Dianne Reeves and Nnenna Freelon have a ball singing and scatting on “Suddenly” (or, as it’s also known, “In Walked Bud”). With the younger Monk manning the drum kit; Perez, Allen, Hancock or Mathews at the keyboard, and Carter, Holland, Wang or McBride keeping time, one can be sure that aspect of the music is in capable hands. Group sizes range from ten to twelve, with workmanlike charts that swing when necessary. This is Monk with a contemporary flavor, and no less appetizing because of it.
Track listing: Little Rootie Tootie; Crepuscule with Nellie; Boo Boo’s Birthday; Dear Ruby; Two Timer; Bright Mississippi; Suddenly; Ugly Beauty; Jackie–ing (52:55).
T. S. Monk, drums, with (in alphabetical order) Geri Allen, David Amram, Eddie Bert, Ron Carter, Nnenna Freelon, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Heath, Dave Holland, Howard Johnson, Kevin Mahogany, Ronnie Mathews, Christian McBride, Danilo Perez, Bobby Porcelli, Dianne Reeves, Wallace Roney, Arturo Sandoval, Wayne Shorter, Don Sickler, Clark Terry, Gary Wang, Grover Washington Jr., Bobby Watson, Willie Williams.